Foramen magnum position in bipedal mammals


Foramen magnum position in bipedal mammals


Russo G A; Kirk E C


Journal of Human Evolution




The anterior position of the human foramen magnum is often explained as an adaptation for maintaining balance of the head atop the cervical vertebral column during bipedalism and the assumption of orthograde trunk postures. Accordingly, the relative placement of the foramen magnum on the basicranium has been used to infer bipedal locomotion and hominin status for a number of Mio-Pliocene fossil taxa. Nonetheless, previous studies have struggled to validate the functional link between foramen magnum position and bipedal locomotion. Here, we test the hypothesis that an anteriorly positioned foramen magnum is related to bipedalism through a comparison of basicranial anatomy between bipeds and quadrupeds from three mammalian clades: marsupials, rodents and primates. Additionally, we examine whether strepsirrhine primates that habitually assume orthograde trunk postures exhibit more anteriorly positioned foramina magna compared with non-orthograde strepsirrhines. Our comparative data reveal that bipedal marsupials and rodents have foramina magna that are more anteriorly located than those of quadrupedal close relatives. The foramen magnum is also situated more anteriorly in orthograde strepsirrhines than in pronograde or antipronograde strepsirrhines. Among the primates sampled, humans exhibit the most anteriorly positioned foramina magna. The results of this analysis support the utility of foramen magnum position as an indicator of bipedal locomotion in fossil hominins. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Anthropology; australopithecus-africanus; basicranial flexion; Basicranium; condyles; Convergent; cranial base; energetic cost; evolution; Evolutionary Biology; hominids; Hominin; Locomotion; occipital; Orthogrady; pliopleistocene; postnatal-development; relative brain size; sahelanthropus-tchadensis; south-africa; Trunk posture


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Russo G A; Kirk E C, “Foramen magnum position in bipedal mammals,” NEOMED Bibliography Database, accessed July 18, 2024,